An Assembly committee Thursday heard mixed testimony on what some have dubbed a “Blue Lives Matter” bill, with a series of opponents speaking against the measure that would expand the definition of hate crime victims to include police officers.
But bill author Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, said the legislation would “show our support and protection for those who protect and serve us every day.”
Speaking with Steffen was Deputy Sheriff Adam Day of Grant County, who said he wanted lawmakers to back the bill “for the thousands of police officers who are willing to risk their lives for you on a moment’s notice,” after recounting an experience last summer where he was physically attacked by someone for being a police officer.
Still, some committee Dems, including Milwaukee Reps. David Crowley and JoCasta Zamarripa, expressed concern that it would unfairly elevate an occupation.
“You’re equating race, religion, color, disability to a job,” Zamarripa told Steffen. “Therein lies the dilemma, that you would equate a job with folks’ identity that cannot be removed at the end of the day. Today when I go home I will not hang up my Latina-ness or my LGBT-ness.”
Currently, there are seven other categories of people that are part of the hate crime penalty enhancement, including race, religion, color, gender and disability.
But Steffen argued that religion “has some choice.” As a Christian, he said, he could choose other religions. For law enforcement officers, he said the job is part of who they are.
“It’s core to who they are,” he said. “I look at it as it is part of their identity.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said police officers he spoke with in Milwaukee worried the bill would lead to “further fracturing” of police and community relations.
Rep. David Bowen, who testified against it, said the characterization of it as a “Blue Lives Matter” bill essentially “framed in a box if we support police or not.” Instead, the Milwaukee Dem said, lawmakers should be focused on making sure they can prevent “these situations from getting out of hand.”
Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, agreed that the bill’s informal name “frames us in a box,” but focused on whether the bill could be used as some sort of crime deterrent for offenses against police officers.
Others speaking against the bill included National Association of Social Workers Director Marc Herstand and former pastor Michael Rehak, of Cambridge. Among those registering in favor of the bill were the state Department of Justice, the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association and Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City.
See the bill text: